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Beginning the search for core principles underpinning literacy development in the early years
conference contributionposted on 2012-01-01, 00:00 authored by Sarah OhiSarah Ohi
Providing opportunities for all people to become literate is now a global imperative (World Bank 2008). There are many and varied reasons underlying this emphasis including global, national, community and personal perspectives (Friere & Macedo 2000) and countries world-wide are investing more money into their early childhood programs and the development of associated policies (Oberhuemer 2005). From a socio-cultural view, literacy development is emergent, ongoing (Cook-Gumperz 2006) and multifaceted (New London Group 1999). Literacy involves far more than reading and writing and encompasses listening, speaking and critical thinking (Department of Education, Science and Training 2005, Luke & Freebody 1997). Literacy is not merely a curricular area, but an important empowering life skill (Harrison 2012, Friere & Macedo 2000). It seems logical then, to search for and identify if there are core principles underpinning early years literacy development.In seeking to identify core principles for emergent literacy development, the study reported here adopted Wiersma & Jurs' (2005) 'Four Step' Historical Research methodological approach involving the identification of a research problem, collection and evaluation of source materials, synthesis of information from the source materials and finally, the analysis, interpretation and the formulation of conclusions. The historical research approach requires creative interpretation (Keastle 1988) and is valued for its effectiveness in sourcing ideas, enlightening current debates, empowering decision-making (Stricker 1992) and influencing policy formation (Wiersma & Jurs 2005).This study involved analysis of Early Years Language and Emergent Literacy Research from the past decade, sourced via education and social sciences databases, as well as information gathered from correspondence with Australian government departments, their websites and policies. The findings from a synthesis of these data sources led to the identification of nine core principles viewed as underpinning children's emergent literacy development. Interested in exploring the relevance and application of these principles to the field of early childhood in Australia, additionally, the researcher has embarked upon a mapping exercise that reveals how the recently introduced Early Years Learning Frameworks align with these principles. Furthermore, in recognition of the importance of the early years as a crucial time in a child's literacy development (Cook-Gumperz 2006, Raban & Nolan 2005, Hall, Larson & Marsh 2003), it is argued that these literacy principles will be valuable to the development of a range of educational tools to be used by Pre-service and practicing Early years educators.